"Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I thank the chairman for yielding. I thank him for his leadership on this important issue and the attention that he has called to it over time and the focus that he has had since day one when we learned of this tragedy.
"I want to join our colleagues Chairman Rahall, in whose district this tragedy occurred, Mr. Mollohan, Ms. Capito, and extend condolences to them. Because while this occurred in Mr. Rahall's district, I know the grief is felt throughout the state of West Virginia as it is being felt throughout our country.
"Mr. Speaker, today in towns across Raleigh County, West Virginia, flags are flying at half-staff. Their residents are mourning the loss of their fathers, brothers, and sons in last week's deadly mine explosion in Montcoal.
"Since then, people across our country have cried for them, have joined in the mourning, and today in the Congress we officially join these proud Americans in expressing our deepest condolences on the loss of 29 coal miners in the worst mining accident in four decades.
"We do so led by Chairman Nick Joe Rahall, who has been on the scene of this catastrophe for the last week and a half. Congressman Rahall has prayed with his constituents, and he has consoled them; he has committed to work for better conditions -- vigorous oversight of the mining industry and rigorous enforcement of safety standards for America's mines. In doing so, he has worked with our chairman, Mr. Miller.
"As Congressman Rahall and other West Virginia leaders, including Congressman Mollohan and Congresswoman Capito, often remind us, this nation is indebted to our coal miners for the difficult and dangerous work they do. Their contributions are a rich part of our nation's history. Their labor makes our way of life possible.
"But last week, 29 families received a phone call that every coal miner's family fears. As the communities of West Virginia grieved, the nation grieved with them.
"Now with this tragedy first in our minds, we must redouble our efforts to minimize the risks to our mine workers and to ensure that they can do their jobs without a threat to their well-being.
"When this tragedy occurred, I called Mr. Rahall and his concerns were very personal about the families who were affected. I called the President of the United Mine Workers, Cecil Roberts, a visionary leader in our country, and his concerns were about the families. But as we move away from that tragedy, our concern for the families must be reflected in our decisions here and the insistence that we have on upholding standards. We must, as I say, redouble our efforts to minimize the risk to those workers.
"Today, we acknowledge the brave efforts of their fellow coal miners who were part of the response team and other first responders who worked tirelessly in the hope of rescue and bravely on behalf of recovery.
"Mr. Speaker, many of the families who lost miners this week have spoken of their deep faith and how that has comforted them. On this House floor this morning, we were led in prayer by Bishop Simms, West Virginian from Mr. Rahall's district. As he shared with us how faith can see us all through, especially these families. On this House floor today, we join them knowing that 29 brave souls are now in a better place.
"Again, our condolences to every member of those families, to the communities. As Cecil Roberts said to us: "We are all one family here in the mining community.' I know Mr. Rahall expressed that sentiment to me as well. In a time like this, it is important for the families of West Virginia and the coal mining community that as a nation we are one family with them as well.
"I hope it is a comfort to them that so many people in our country mourn their loss and are praying for them at this sad time."